Mitigate danger & trust the Lord

PA32-300 Piper Cherokee Six like one I had

In my preceding post, I described my feeble methods for staying alive in the Argentine civil war, now called “the Dirty War” by historical revisionists. After describing how I turned my safety over to the Lord, I said:

“From that day on, I have not feared for my life–despite being in great danger on numerous occasions. If I discover myself in danger, I do whatever I can to mitigate the risk. But, the Lord is in absolute control of the outcome.”

Over later posts, I’m going to dig into my spiritual journal for examples demonstrating what I meant in the above quote. These examples will illustrate what I mean by doing “whatever I can to mitigate the risk,” while accepting that “the Lord is in absolute control of the outcome”

I previously wrote how flying fighters became my childhood ambition during World War II. As a Marine I failed the color-blindness test to be a fighter pilot. However, I couldn’t shake my love of flying, and when I could afford it, I secured a private pilot’s license, instrument rating, commercial pilot certificate, and an airplane: a Piper Cherokee Six, PA32-300(hp).

Over the years, I flew 49 different aircraft (20 designs), logged 878 hours of flight, of which 505 were cross-country, 40 at night, 103 solely by reference to instruments (actual IFR); including 950 takeoffs and landings. I kept intellectually committed through thousands of hours of courses, seminars, reading accident reports, and reading articles like mine below.

Piloting aircraft has been defined by one wag as: “thousands of hours of boredom punctuated by rare moments of sheer terror.”

In May of 1989, I encountered my first (and only) such moment. The following is taken verbatim from my personal journal (edited only for clarity):

Sunday, April 30, 1989 to Sunday, May 7, 1989 [inflight icing nearly kills me].  Flew alone on business in Delaware, regarding relocating my company there. First leg, flew to my folks’ house in Williamsport, PA, for dinner and the night. Same day, took (sister) Josie’s family for ride. Monday, flew to Allentown, PA, which was as close as I wanted to go in (the prevalent bad) weather, because it had (the) best instrument facilities. After business, I took off for Ohio State University field, where I refueled. The account of the icing encounter follows below the (following) logbook entries.

Date From To Flight time Aircraft ID Make & Model Remarks
4/30/89 SUS IPT 4.5 N2174S PA32-300 non-stop using 55% power and had 38 gallons (2.5 hrs.) left!!!
4/30/89 IPT IPT 0.5 N2174S PA32-300 Josie’s family for ride.
5/1/89 IPT ABE 0.8 N2174S PA32-300 Allentown ILS to 400 feet; drove to Dover DE
5/6/1989 ABE OSU 3 N2174S PA32-300 OSU NDB
5/6/89 OSU DAY 0.8 N2174S PA32-300 DAY ILS: Heavy icing caused me to abort flight and overnight here
5/7/89 DAY SUS 3 N2174S PA32-300

IPT = Williamsport Regional Airport, Williamsport, Pennsylvania, USA

SUS = Spirit of St. Louis Airport, MO

ABE = Lehigh Valley International, Allenown, PA

OSU = Ohio State University, Columbus, OH

DAY = James M Cox Dayton International, Dayton, OH

Below is my article published in AOPA Online (Aircraft Owners & Pilots Association). (article was still online there on June 10, 2008, 19 years later)

Weather and Flight Experience

Listen to your Briefer

This is taken from my journal. At the time, I was an 800-hour pilot, current for IFR and flying the same plane that I had earned my IFR rating in five years earlier. I flew all cross-country under IFR and had about 80 hours actual IMC experience.

May 6, 1989: Returning from Dover, Delaware, where I had been involved in stressful business, I was traveling home to Spirit of St. Louis airport using my Cherokee Six.

I stopped at Columbus, Ohio, at the Ohio State University airstrip for refueling. As I got my IFR weather debriefing over the phone, the briefer told me that there was a Pirep (pilot report) that a Cessna had encountered light icing southeast of the field. Yeah, yeah, I thought to myself. Just like the “chance of thunderstorms” you get all summer long from the FSS in CAVU. Well, they had cried “WOLF” so many times that this Pirep went right through my ears. But, I was now alerted to the possibility of icing, although I considered it remote in the month of May and with the temperatures aloft along my route.

Then this intrepid aviator took his beloved Cherokee Six off into a four hundred foot ceiling (IFR, remember) in light rain and was chugging onward at four thousand feet under Dayton Approach Control about twenty miles out, when I entered driving snow, which changed to sleet and freezing rain, which made my engine run rough, so, because I was a well trained and current IFR pilot with 5 years in this airplane, I opened the air cleaner by-pass by rote for the first time in five years. But the engine continued to run rough as the prop iced up. And ice started to form on my leading edges and on my windscreen.

This situation got my undivided attention. So I yelped: “Dayton Approach Control, this is Cherokee xxxx Sierra IFR to St. Louis. I have encountered freezing rain and need to land immediately”.

“Cherokee xxxx Sierra, are you declaring an emergency?”

“Yes I am!”

“Cherokee xxxx Sierra, turn left to a heading of 210, immediately descend to two thousand feet and intercept the localizer for runway 24 Right. I have put all other traffic on hold.”

“xxxx Sierra. Thank you!”

Moments later, I broke out of the clouds and the ice started to melt and break off the prop, cowl, windshield, wings, wheel fairings etc. I kept the indicated airspeed up to about 140 knots on the approach and 120 knots over the threshold numbers, because I knew that the ice might seriously degrade lift on my wings. Moreover, despite the pitot heat, the pitot tube might be iced up and not giving airspeed correctly. Normal stall was about 65 miles per hour without flaps. You don’t use flaps in this situation. Training pays off in the knowledge that this is not the first time this type of situation has been thought through.

Then I touched down with a loud “CRASH” sound as all the ice fell off the plane as I touched down and, once on the ground, I cut the throttle, pushed the nose down and slowly lowered full flaps. It was a 10,900-foot runway, so I had no problem stopping with a mile to spare from the high speed.

As I walked into the FBO’s office, the phone rang for me. The briefer who had told me about the icing Pirep on the phone briefing in Columbus asked me: “Why did you decide to go after I told you of the Pirep about icing?”

“It was southeast and I was going west. I went up to take a look for myself. But, thanks for saving my life”, I told him.

The briefer was gracious. No infractions were levied on me. The FAA controllers saved my life with immediate rerouting, putting all the incoming airliners in holding patterns, as they are prepared to do when the pilot declares an Emergency.

The moral and lessons of the story are several. Listen to your weather briefing carefully. To assure that you get full benefit from the briefing, do not “tune out” what you perceive as boilerplate. And Pireps are far from boilerplate. Know the risks ahead before starting. Always keep trained for the worst (icing does happen in May), and ready to recognize and declare an emergency IMMEDIATELY. If I had waited five minutes, I would have been buried in a hole in an Ohio cornfield. The logic is this: if I make an error in judgment, own up to it, get out of the danger and deal with it on the ground.

So, you might ask, how does this incident stand up to my words about risk:

“From that day on, I have not feared for my life–despite being in great danger on numerous occasions. If I discover myself in danger, I do whatever I can to mitigate the risk. But, the Lord is in absolute control of the outcome.”

For my part, I did what I could to mitigate the risks:

  1. Aircraft maintained in excellent condition;
  2. Pilot well-rested and healthy;
  3. Pilot well-trained in this aircraft;
  4. Recent Pilot experience in Instrument Meteorological Conditions ;
  5. Pilot pretrained for this specific meteorological condition (icing);
  6. Pilot alert for and recognized conditions as they deteriorated;
  7. Pilot immediately announced problem to Air Traffic Control;

God has a plan for my life, and another plan for yours. This situation could have easily led to a wide range of outcomes, with death as most likely. The icing could have been just a little worse, and the plane would have become uncontrollable. Or, I could have tried to solve the problem on my own, because I didn’t want to admit I had made a mistake–or was afraid of what the FAA might do to me. But, I did what I had previously trained to do, including the preset decision to immediately declare an emergency.

That’s one example, of how a Christian can live without (groundless) fear, and take reasonable risks by training beforehand for adversity. Some had thought I was a control freak in flying. Actually, I was only complying with regulations and industry guidelines for safe flying. That I misread a piece of data was a human mistake, but I was up front in admitting the problem to authorities who could help, and they did. The FAA encouraged honesty at that time by foregoing penalties when pilots reported their errors.

Since I pray as a regular element of daily life, wherever I may be, and start every day with the Holy Spirit and the Bible (which He inspired various men to write)–including on that day described in the article–I live with the indwelling Holy Spirit inside me wherever I go. When this crisis arose, I acted through training, but accepted that the outcome was in His hands.

Thanks for visiting,

Rick Burke


“It ain’t over ’till it’s over.” – Yogi Berra

In early childhood during the dark days of World War II, I decided that I was going to be a fighter pilot. At the age of 6, as I read novels about Dave Dawson and the RAF, the fact did not escape me that fighter pilots did not live long lives–30 years was a full lifetime. So, I expected to live 30 years.

At age 35, after a family tragedy, the Father called me to Jesus and I was saved. I had led a rebellious life until then, and no one knew that better than my dad. I was his eldest and his prodigal, and I don’t use the word “prodigal” loosely. No one was more surprised at my change than he.

While visiting my folks in the following year, I had just finished reading Jesus’s parable about the vineyard owner hiring workers and said to my dad, “Gee, I showed up at 5 pm and Jesus paid me a full wage.”

Rather firmly, my father replied, “Who says it’s 5pm? You have a long life ahead of you.”

Until then, I’d been thinking I had lived 5 years longer than my childhood expectation–and having attributed this to the Marines scrapping my orders to flight training because of my eyesight– I finally realized that I really didn’t know how long I’d live. But, I knew God the Father did.

Just one year later, I was working in Buenos Aires in the midst of the Argentine terrorist wars. The terrorists killed one businessman each day on his way to work. I changed hotels every day for the first 42 months.

As I walked from my hotel to my office early one morning, I took my usual security precaution of walking along the side of the street with slanted storefront windows. This way, I could check the reflections to see whether anyone was following me. When there were no more slanted windows ahead on my side of the street, but slanted windows on the other side, I would cross the street and continue on that side. While crossing the street that morning, I came to my senses and stopped in the middle (no traffic).

“Lord. Why am I doing this on my own? It’s your job to keep me alive.”

From that day on, I have not feared for my life–despite being in great danger on numerous occasions. If I discover myself in danger, I do whatever I can to mitigate the risk. But, the Lord is in absolute control of the outcome.

Are you a Christian, often enervated by fear? Does my above response sound strange to you? If it does, you should ask the Lord to take away your fear, and give you wisdom to deal with the circumstances he places you in. Here’s what he has to say to you, just as he does to me:

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

Don’t forget, Christian: Isaiah called Jesus “Immanuel,” which means “God with us.” And Jesus promised us his Holy Spirit forever.

We pay price of the legacy of abortion

Letter to Editor of Martinsburg Journal

Richard E. Burke, Shepherdstown

November 11, 2016

It occurred to me this morning that the modern world (including the USA), perhaps unwittingly, now propagates the large-scale legacy of the National Socialist Party of Germany–the murderous Nazis and their Final Solution–in the way the world chooses to address its problems. Consider the following:

If promises to pay pensions and medical costs for pensioners cannot be paid, then blame the pensioners. The solution is coming with single-payer medical care and government decisions about whose medical problems will be treated, or not.

If “deplorable” segments of the population demand that a Constitution written two centuries ago must be honored until it is changed through its well-tested and self-described methodology for allowing those governed to control the changes, the solution is coming to disarm those “deplorable” citizens, incapacitate them if they won’t get out of the way, dictate the changes by “Executive Order,” and dissolve the constitution by absorbing it into a borderless global sovereign government.

If the citizenry absorbed government propaganda and disingenuously unproductive education, which mocks worship of God and forbids multi-millennial mores regarding productive civil society, and the majority becomes godless, licentious, ignorant, drug dependent, and violent–spreading STDs, unwanted pregnancies, destruction of families, and murders–the solution is to end-run the people’s legislature and legislate from the courts to support the evil behavior and oppress the opposition.

Sixty million babies have been aborted in the USA since 1973 when the Supreme Court decreed abortion to be a civil right as dictated by a 7-judge majority’s interpretation of the Constitution. 1.5 billion is a reasonable estimate of worldwide abortions since then. What had been murder was decreed legal.

And yet in the USA, people still wonder why we have not yet come up with the scientific or medical breakthroughs to cure dementia and cancer in all its forms in the breasts, prostate, lungs, pancreas, brain, esophagus, stomach, intestines, liver, bones, skin etc. The answer is obvious, the world’s citizenry aborted many researchers who would have given us cures — and many solutions in energy and science.

Despite this, will we someday find solutions to these problems — and the huge array of nonmedical problems? Maybe within a century, God-willing, but the people who suffer and die while waiting for the solutions will be paying the price of recent generations’ global corruption and legacy of abortion.

One scripture applies to these issues, and we see its consequences in 2016: God is not mocked. I would suggest we are seeing the results of its corollary: We mock God at our peril.

Reply by LK to my letter to the editor

Nov 12, 2016 9:44am

Richard Burke, since god doesn’t consider a fetus life, neither do I. In Exodus 21:21-23, only the pregnant woman is considered life and not the fetus. It states, “When…a man knocks against a pregnant woman so that she has a miscarriage…then the offender must pay whatever fine the woman’s husband demands…But where injury ensues, you are to give life for life”. And since god is pro-abortion, so am I. In Numbers 5:11-28, god commands the Levite priests to give an adulterous pregnant woman “the ordeal water and it enters her body to test her, she will suffer a miscarriage or untimely birth”. Why have evangelicals and Catholics adopted religious beliefs directly contradicted by God’s word?

Reply by Richard E. Burke to LK’s reply

Nov 14, 2016 4:52pm

Dear LK,

Since you start your comment with: “Since god doesn’t consider…neither do I,” I shall address you as a Christian, since we apparently both care about what God does consider right and wrong, and therefore seek the truth of the matter. Here is my reply to your comment on my Letter to the Editor.

Exodus 21:21, which you cite, is the last line of a prior law about a willful act (v.20-21) against a slave and you have mistakenly included it in your argument (I’m sure you will agree that you didn’t intend to include this verse).

Exodus 21:22-25 deals with an accidental miscarriage as follows: “If men who are fighting hit a pregnant woman and she gives birth prematurely but there is no serious injury, the offender must be fined whatever the woman’s husband demands and the court allows. But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.”

This is not related to willful abortion, but a mother’s injury and premature birth of the child resulting from a (presumably) unintended blow, for it is defined as when “men are fighting.” If there is not serious injury, the settlement for the wife’s injuries and the premature birth are treated like a fender bender–as a tort. If there is serious injury, under Lex Talionis (which concept comes from pre-Abrahamic Babylonian law in the 3rd millennium BC), the law required equal injury.

Knowing the value placed on a child at that time in Mesopotamia, I’m sure the judge at the city gate would deem a premature birth leading to death or a serious injury of the baby as a “serious injury,” with consequent penalties which could in Babylonia have included causing the abortion of the guilty man’s wife’s or daughter’s next pregnancy. We have no records of case law at that time, but we know laws were rigidly applied. However, the intent of this application of the law in Exodus is clear: this particular version limits the circumstances to men fighting (men)–not the case where one of the men intentionally attacked the woman to cause her to lose her baby. If you are not versed in the history of Lex Talionis, google it.

Numbers 5:11-28, which you cite, has absolutely nothing to do with the subject of abortion, but trial by ordeal for adultery. In John 7:53 to 8:11, a woman caught in adultery is brought to Jesus by Pharisees. They say “…the law of Moses commanded us to stone such women.” Jesus replies, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” They all walked away. Jesus then asked the woman, “Where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She replied, “No one, sir.” Jesus declared, “Then neither do I condemn you. Go now and leave your life of sin.”

Jesus forgave the woman consistent with what he said after teaching the disciples the Lord’s prayer. In Matthew 6:14-15, he tells them “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive them. But, if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

If you claim to be a Christian, then you accept the message of the cross: Jesus paid the death penalty for your and my sins at the cross. You and I accept this as fact. Every sin, including abortion, is paid for at the cross. Those who accept Jesus as Lord and choose to obey him as best they can are forgiven–washed clean by his blood. Those who won’t accept his payment for their sin remain where they were before they refused Jesus–with a sin debt they cannot pay.

If you are a Christian, you must stop trying to distort God’s clear intention that man choose life, not death. You must stop accusing your fellow Christians of sin when they refuse to accept moral complicity in the Supreme Court’s legalization of murder, that is abortion. It is not they, but you, who are in willful rebellion against God. You must stop declaring “God is pro-abortion,” and “since god doesn’t consider a fetus life, neither do I.” As I said in my Letter to the Editor, and now say to you: “We mock God at our peril.”

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” Psalm 139:13

May God bless you with insight into His will in this matter,

Richard E. Burke